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Case Study: Imogen Harding, Factory Manager at Ibstock

Imogen is a factory manager with Ibstock, having spent her entire career in factories working her way up from an entry level position from when she first began. She has also returned from her second round of maternity leave since 2020 in recent months, and has benefitted from new flexible working policies and support from the wider team.
Imogen Harding

Of her initial starting experience and thoughts, she says: “At first I was hesitant to work not only in the construction industry, but directly on a factory floor, especially as the only female. But any negative perceptions I had were born out of ignorance, and my fears were quickly left behind.”

Things have also changed significantly since she first started too: “When I originally started, there wasn’t even a toilet or showers specifically for female use. I had to stick up a sign to warn others to stay out! But now? That would be unthinkable. The environment is so much more welcoming – and I can see that in the number of women in operational roles now – though there is still work to be done.”

The turning point for Imogen was when “females started to be showcased in leadership roles, with a real change in the industry, environment, and sentiment to women in construction. The strong push for diversity has absolutely normalised things for us.”

There is undoubtedly work to be done though still. “I had no role models when I started, and I still don’t really know of many other women who’ve been through what I have. That would have been so helpful at the time. There was no frame of reference for a woman to come back from an extended break to the factory floor in an operations role, and I’ve been working with the HR team to really help figure out what support I do need moving forwards. It has been, and still is, a huge learning experience for all us. I am more than just a mother – having a child doesn’t define me.”

How does she feel about the future of the industry and the Construction Inclusion Coalition? “There are so many opportunities in the construction industry, once you look beneath the surface. And these opportunities include skills and talents that we’re not currently attracting – but should be! It’s a hugely rewarding, exciting, and fantastic industry to work in, and if we can raise the profile of it beyond the industry and to young talent everywhere – then that would be brilliant.”

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